Planned Bradenton business incubator helped by Purdue Unviersity's strategic doing

Collaborative system to enhance economic development focused on action

cschelle@bradenton.comApril 11, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Purdue University's Ed Morrison has made a living on short meetings and teamwork.

Morrison focuses on changing the approach to economic development with a philosophy called strategic doing that helps propel action through short meetings, trusting others and respect as opposed to long, continual meetings featuring shouting without any results.

"If we're going to transform our region, we need to do collaboration at scale," said Morrison on Thursday as part of the keynote presentation at Spark Growth's Regional Leadership Conference.

Morrison first used the strategy in a government setting with Oklahoma City in 1993 after and now heads Purdue's Center for Regional Development, speaking all over the country on the topic.

Cities working with Morrison, including Charleston, S.C., have seen results using "strategic doing" to move from a tourism destination to one of the 10 fastest growing cities for software and technology, even without having a major research university, Morrison said.

So if a community is ready to do strategic planning, it ought to be ready to meet soon and ask basic questions when it partners with other organizations: What could we do together? What should we be doing? What will we do? What is our 30/30? Or, what did we do the last 30 days and what are we going to do the next 30 days?

Event organizers and social entrepreneurs Sara Hand and Stan Schultes of Spark Growth, received certification in strategic doing and are helping to launch a Bradenton business incubator, temporarily called

the Bradenton Innovation Center. In six months the duo have reached 50 percent of their funding goal and continue to have talks with the City of Bradenton to be able to use a former fire station at 912 7th Ave. E, as the incubator's initial home.

"The incubator is one part of our project," Hand said. "Strategic doing can help us move from people talking to actually getting things done."

They've been able to secure matching grants from University of Southern Florida Connect and are having conversations about how University of Central Florida's incubator program can help.

Instead of waiting for funding and certain commitments to be in place, they are talking to organizations like CareerEdge to see how they could partner with training, and have a prospective partnership with TriNet in Lakewood Ranch.

Human resources company TriNet, which has offices in Lakewood Ranch and San Bernardino, Calif., has its own incubator partnership program that could translate to the Bradenton Innovation Center.

"TriNet is a partner to many incubators nationally and the partnership with the Bradenton Innovation Center seemed like a great fit for our regional team," said Deborah Walter, a regional sales consultant at TriNet. "TriNet works with many startups firms in technology, financial services and professional services to help them manage and scale their business. Incubators provide TriNet with access to the types of companies that can benefit from our services."

TriNet offers companies human resources services, and TriNet sees incubators as a good base to help companies grow that need scaling.

"Incubators tend to nurture the types of clients that TriNet can help scale and grow, to realize their true potential," Walter said. "TriNet would like to position itself as a valuable resource to startups by helping them maximize time and resources, attract and retain top talent, managing rising HR costs and minimizing exposure to risk."

Walter thinks the incubator could help Bradenton to be a "great resource to startups in the community and enable businesses to find the right type of resources to foster the growth of their companies."

Hand and Schultes also are in conversations with Eckerd College in Sarasota and Florida Polytechnic University, which is opening its Lakeland campus this fall, to see if a strategic doing certification course can be brought to Florida.

Outside of Hand and Schultes, not a whole of lot of Morrison's strategic doing has occurred in Florida.

Morrison has visited Florida on five occasions but communities here haven't been able to come together to proceed with strategic doing, while being able to implement those strategies in places like Flint, Mich., and Oklahoma City. Morrison's best theory is that Floridians haven't latched on partly because folks have different views of how local government should work.

"There's a reason why Cleveland, Detroit, Akron and all these places are having trouble dealing with the change going on because they have very rigid hierarchies," he said. "When people come down here, the hierarchies aren't all that rigid, but the thinking is still rigid. I think people don't behave well toward one another. They don't see the opportunity is right here."

So, instead, folks should try to understand one another more and make sure they are planning for their grandchildren's economy instead of trying to fix or repair the economy they grew up with, he said.

"I think that the distance Tampa Bay has to travel [to become a global leader] is ... about the six inches between your ears," Morrison said. "It's not that far."

Morrison explained his system is built upon trust of people, leaving aside those who aren't trustworthy, choosing civility over arguments and eliminating a hierarchical top-down organization approach and favoring networks of people to accomplish work.

"A linear process can't work in an agile environment, which is one of the reasons strategic planning does not work," Morrison said.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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